Jasmine Lime Tea Cooler

fullsizeoutput_61df

My favorite beverage at Peet’s Coffee & Tea used to be the jasmine lime tea cooler, a refreshingly sweet and tart iced tea they offered during the summer. Unfortunately, they took it off the menu years ago, which left me and many other fans of this drink bereft.

A friend of mine used to work as a barista at Peet’s and told me the recipe: iced jasmine green tea mixed with Lime Odwalla. Alas, the Lime Odwalla has also mysteriously disappeared from shelves.

So I decided to make my own jasmine lime tea cooler, using fresh lime juice in place of the Lime Odwalla. I use honey as a sweetener. The key is to sweeten the tea while it’s hot (so that the honey dissolves more easily), rather than trying to sweeten the lime juice.

If you find the drink is still too tart for your taste, you can add more honey or sugar later, but make sure you stir it really well. Better yet, use simple syrup.

A pitcher of this iced tea will get you through the hottest days of late summer. Enjoy!

fullsizeoutput_6217
I use Numi organic tea, but any jasmine tea will do.

JASMINE LIME TEA COOLER RECIPE

3 1/2 cups water
3 jasmine green tea bags
2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 or 3 limes)

Place tea bags in a 1-quart glass pitcher. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour over tea bags and let steep for 4 minutes.

Remove tea bags. Add honey to the tea; stir until it dissolves. Refrigerate the tea for a few hours until chilled.

Add lime juice and 1 1/2 cups cold water; stir well. Serve over ice. Makes 4 cups.

fullsizeoutput_61db

Advertisements

Horchata… Dairy-Free, as It Should Be

fullsizeoutput_6202

I always thought horchata was safe for a lactose-intolerant person like me, since it’s traditionally made with rice milk. But more and more often, when I encounter horchata in L.A. and ask to make sure it’s dairy-free, the answer is no. In many cases, it contains evaporated milk, making it more like a shake than an aqua fresca.

A few days ago I read an article in the Food section of the Los Angeles Times that explains why: Even though real horchata doesn’t have dairy, “it’s easier, cheaper and involves less labor to use cow milk because you get that creamy texture without all the work of soaking, blending, then straining out the rice.”

Having just made my own horchata using a recipe printed in the article, I can say that it’s not that much work. The hardest part is remembering to make it a day ahead so it has time to soak. Straining the horchata isn’t a big deal if you have a good mesh strainer and some cheesecloth handy.

I’m grateful to live in an area where I can find things like Morelos rice and canela (Mexican cinnamon) in the international section of my supermarket. But if you can’t, just use long-grain white rice and regular cinnamon.

fullsizeoutput_61f5

fullsizeoutput_61f9

A popular variation in L.A. is the “dirty horchata,” a combination of horchata and espresso. I made my own version using half horchata and half Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, because that’s what I had on hand. It was delicious.

MORELOS RICE HORCHATA RECIPE (DAIRY-FREE)
Adapted from the Los Angeles Times

2 cups uncooked Morelos rice
1 stick canela (Mexican cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar or honey
4 cups filtered water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée on high for 30 seconds to break up the rice. Turn off the blender and refrigerate the mixture in the blender overnight, or at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, re-blend the mixture. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer, then pour it through a layer of cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment. Taste and add more sugar, if you like. Serve the horchata over ice and sprinkle with ground cinnamon to garnish. Makes 4 servings.

fullsizeoutput_620f
Homemade dirty horchata

Xing Fu Tang Taiwanese Boba

IMG_4480

There’s boba everywhere in Taiwan. For a boba tea lover like me, it was both heavenly and overwhelming. When there’s a boba shop on every block, how do you decide which ones to try? Taiwanese establishments don’t have a big presence on Yelp, so I had to rely mostly on instinct.

Shopping in Ximendeng, a touristy neighborhood in Taipei, I picked the boba shop with the longest line, figuring the locals knew. Xing Fu Tang, I would later find out, is a hugely popular boba chain with at least 60 locations in Taiwan. During my trip, I would see many people carrying those pill-shaped cups.

I waited in line for 20 minutes under the scorching sun, but it was worth it. Xing Fu Tang’s signature drink, the brown sugar milk tea, was unlike any milk tea I’ve had in the United States. It had a strong tea flavor, it was creamy as hell, and the boba balls were as fresh as they come. The only reason I wouldn’t drink this more often if I lived in Taipei is because it would make me seriously fat.

Oh, and because they use real milk and I’m lactose-intolerant. But hey, I was on vacation. (Read my blog post, “When Cheating on Your Diet Is Worth It.”)

IMG_4476
The big wok where they keep the boba balls warm.

As outstanding as that milk tea was, the grapefruit green tea I had at the Xing Fu Tang in Jioufen was even better — and dairy-free! Jioufen is another tourist area, a mountain town filled with narrow, winding cobblestone streets lined with street-food vendors and souvenir shops.

This grapefruit green tea was the best I’ve ever had, surpassing even my favorite from Tea Bar in Azusa. It wasn’t bitter like some grapefruit drinks can be, but it wasn’t too sweet, either. It had bits of pulp (but not an annoying amount) and it tasted super-fresh. Even without boba pearls, this drink was something to remember.

The location — at the end of the long main street in Jioufen, overlooking the lush green landscape — is a huge plus. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque spot to enjoy a refreshing beverage.

IMG_5116

If you find yourself in Taiwan, jonesing for boba, Xing Fu Tang is the spot. Just beware of other Xing Fu Tang locations, though. They’re not all equal. I tried a small offshoot in Ximendeng (with a much shorter line) and another in Danshui Harbor, and they were both disappointing.

XING FU TANG (Ximendeng)No. 29, Chengdu Road
成都路29號
萬華區, 台北市 108
Taiwan

XING FU TANG (Jioufen)No. 175, Jishan Street
基山街175號
瑞芳區, 新北市 224
Taiwan

Magnum Non-Dairy Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bars

IMG_3488

I’ve been searching for a non-dairy substitute for Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars for as long as I’ve been dairy-free. Here’s what I wrote about them years ago, in my review of the disappointing Coconut Bliss Ice Cream Bars:

“I really wanted to like these because they look just like Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Milk Chocolate Almond Bars, one of my favorite treats from my dairy-eating days. The Häagen-Dazs bars contain the richest, creamiest vanilla ice cream coated in thick, high-quality chocolate studded with crunchy roasted almonds. They’re ridiculously good.”

That’s the gold standard I’ve been holding that, until now, nothing has met.

But now there are Magnum Non-Dairy Almond frozen dessert bars.

IMG_6232

If you can get past the name — which always makes me think of condoms — this thing is awesome. The ice cream is smooth and not too sweet, “made from an expert blend of coconut oil and pea protein.” (It tastes better than it sounds.) It’s described on their website as “velvety and fragrant Madagascan vanilla.” A little over-the-top, but what else would you expect from a company called Magnum?

The vegan milk chocolate shell is a high-quality Belgian chocolate, embedded with chopped, roasted almonds. Both the chocolate and the nuts are excellent. The only problem is that the chocolate shell tends to crack and fall apart when you bite into it — but that’s the case with any chocolate-dipped frozen treat. Keep a plate handy.

This is truly the best imitation of Häagen-Dazs, the holy grail of ice cream bars, that I’ve ever tasted. Just don’t confuse them with these.

images